Photo by McKenzie Gallagher

September 7, 2017

At the beginning of this semester, the President’s Art Commission (PAC) purchased paintings by Wheaton Professor Emeritus Joel Sheesly to hang above both fireplaces in Anderson Commons. These purchases, Kathy’s Dream and Kneeling Down, are part of a larger project within the PAC to collect Sheesly’s work and display it around campus.

David Hooker, art department chair and head of the PAC, described Sheesly’s work as “conceptually theological in nature.”

“He has always been incredibly interested in the dialogue between his work and art and faith, and finding ways to bring those together,” Hooker said. Hooker added further that , Sheesly demonstrates this intersection in his tendency to “[focus] on where he is, making work about the space he lives in and inhabits, which means that his work … is about the suburbs of Chicago.”

According to Hooker, Anderson Commons was chosen as the obvious place to display this artwork, partially because the pieces fit the space and display the landscape of Wheaton, but also because it is fitting for “work that is about everyday life [to be] in a place that is everyday.”

The explicit meaning of the works continues to mystify students, however. Hooker plans to keep it that way.

“I fully believe that some of the interpretation of artwork is dependent upon the community. It’s actually the community’s job … the artist never has full control over what an artwork means,” Hooker explained. He encourages the student body to engage in discussion and interact with the artwork. He wants students “to think of [the paintings] like parables, which is to say they have to reveal themselves to you over time, and you never fully own or understand them. And that’s a good thing.”

Sophomore Mara Walters is one student who has chosen to interact with the work and interpret her own meaning. “When I look at the new paintings, they make me feel comfortable, personally, because they remind me of the suburban midwestern life I’ve had growing up … They seem to say that God can work through anything, even the seemingly dull life of the suburbs or things that we usually see as pests, like geese,” she explained.

The artwork in Anderson Commons is not the only project of the PAC currently displayed on campus. Other examples include the exhibit on the fifth floor of the BGC, the mural of the woman at the well outside Barrows Auditorium and “Wrestle on Jacob” in Blanchard Hall Gallery. In the future, Hooker believes the PAC’s “vision is to keep as much artwork on campus as possible to make this a place where visual theology is taken seriously, expressed and celebrated.”